News / Middle East

Corruption Probe Seen as Challenge to Turkish PM's Authority

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Turkish police have detained at least 49 people in Istanbul and Ankara as part of a high-level corruption probe into alleged bribery connected to public tenders.  The move is being widely interpreted as a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Istanbul’s police chief Huseyin Capkin was dismissed Thursday, in the latest fallout from one of Turkey's largest-ever judicial probes into government corruption. The sons of senior ministers, including the Interior Minister, were detained, as were numerous high-level bureaucrats, and dozens of senior police officers have been fired or reassigned. The government claims the officers failed to inform their superiors about the probes. Observers say the investigation is expected to grow, and they predict that prosecutors will call for the parliamentary immunity of the implicated ministers to be rescinded.

Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Group think tank says the investigation is one most serious in the country’s history.

"It's revolutionary; nothing of the kind happened in this country before. Of course, corruptions always existed like everywhere in the world. But the scale and the persons involved, indicted - it's unique," said Aktar.

The investigation centers on the alleged laundering of money from Iran to circumvent international sanctions on Tehran, and alleged bribery in the awarding of state contracts for land development.  The Turkish media have broadcast pictures of millions of dollars in cash, found at the home of one of the three sons of government ministers detained, as well as the home of a senior official of the state-owned Halkbank.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is taking a robust stand against the investigation, claiming it is part of a conspiracy against his government.  

"There is a very dirty operation here,” Erdoğan said Thursday. "Some circles inside and outside of Turkey are seeking to hinder Turkey from its rapid growth."
 
Observers say the prime minister sees a powerful Islamist movement led by the cleric Fethullah Gulen as being behind the probe. Gulen's followers are widely believed to be influential both in the judiciary and the police.

But Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, denies the accusation. He was once a strong backer of the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party, particularly in its struggle against the once-dominant army. But tensions have been on the rise in the last 18 months.

Asli Aydintasbas, a political columnist for Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper, says Erdogan will try and use the struggle with Gulen’s supporters to his advantage.
 
"There is no doubt that part of this is the power struggle between the Gulenists and the government. The government’s line will be foreign plot and the Gulenists are working for foreign interests - Israel, US. It's in their interest; Erdogan has always benefited from looking like victim, David and Golia[th]," said Aydintasbas.
 
Observers say the government will be keen to make the judicial investigations be about democracy rather than corruption. But analyst Aktar says if the allegations stick, the consequences for the AK Party could be severe.

"The constituency of the ruling party is composed mainly of destitute masses, and the sums involved mentioned in the press, millions and billions, that might have indeed a quite negative effect on the AK, which is preparing for the next round of elections 2014 and 2015," said Aktar.

Turkey is heading into an 18-month election cycle, with crucial local elections in March, followed by presidential elections in which Erdoğan is widely expected to run and a general election in 2015. The anti-corruption probe could not come at a worse time for the government, and many of its supporters insist this is not a coincidence. Observers say how successful the government is in convincing the country that the probe is more a conspiracy than a corruption investigation could determine the outcome of the upcoming elections.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs